Sam Phillips is an angry prophet in a waif’s body, and the dualism comes through in her music. Her latest album, Martini and Bikinis, sugarcoats her Cassandra-like complaints with a panorama and a half of Beatlesesque song settings and courtly pop psychedelia. The album begins with an elegant cameo, “Love and Kisses.” “History is written to say it wasn’t our fault,” she warbles. “God will grant us all our wishes / Martinis and bikinis for our friends.” Similarly alternating bits of the gnomic and sarcastic fill out the record as Phillips rails against everything from acid rain (“We won’t stop until we’re underneath a black sky”) to the scarred emotional edges of sexual politics (“You say love when you mean control”). Those song settings, though, make the record a stunner. For one, Phillips conjures up about half a dozen killer choruses, from the dulcet warbles on “I Need Love” to the bursting refrain on “Signposts.” And the Beatles stuff works through sheer volume: There’s the “Within You Without You” sitars on “Baby I Can’t Please You,” the “If I Needed Someone” guitar riff on “I Need Love,” the “Lovely Rita” ululations on “Same Rain,” the “Lucy in the Sky” harpsichord lilt of “Love and Kisses”–and I could go on and on. There’s so much of a Beatles presence, in fact, that the last track, a run at John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth,” seems like overkill–until you notice how much the song’s exasperated pitch contrasts with Phillips’s usual mere smolder. Watch out, she seems to be saying. Next time I’m going to get mad. Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Melodie McDaniel.